Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Something Unexpected

Upon their return to Istanbul my parents in law go through a routine check-up, as they do to get their medicare benefits. Surprisingly Mehmet’s mom shows high Thyroid levels in the blood. As Mehmet also has Thyroid problems he sends his mom to a specialist friend he has gone to medical school with. Nothing out of line he assumes, probably mom will start taking some medication to control her levels, that’s all.
Then one day in October he tells me that it is worse than anticipated. Mom has cancer. His friend told him the bad news over the phone. What to do?
Thank heavens it is a very slow progressing sort of a cancer, a nodule in the thyroid gland. The gland has to be taken out, after that we will see. We talk about whether or not tell the ‘cancer news’ to Mehmet’s mom. Eventually we – he – decides against it. It is better for the overall mood of mom not to know, we think. I know it is quite controversial here in the United States. Patient’s rights come first, and a doctor has to tell his patients. Plus everybody has a do-it-yourself attitude where -patients- want to take charge. But in Turkey we have a different attitude, not better or worse I think, just different, more fatalistic, more interconnected in the family… Because we fear that mom, if she hears the word ‘cancer’ will worry so much that it will not help at all with the healing process. Mehmet arranges the surgical operation for November, with the doctor, he tells mom that it is a benign tumor but needs to be taken out never the less.
We begin to pack our luggage for a trip to Istanbul. We will surprise everybody by suddenly showing up and knocking at their door. Why the secrecy? Because we don’t want them to do any preparation for us, which they will definitely do, if they get wind of our coming.
We knock Mehmet’s parents door at 9 o’clock in the evening.
Actually Kaan knocks at the door. Mehmet’s dad opens. His eyes become as large as saucers. “Nermin! Nermin! Quick come here!!!!!” We kiss, we hug. They are already in their pjs. Kaan laughs a lot. After maybe half an hour we leave them behind and drive to my parents. Again Kaan knocks the door. Mom answers. “Ahhh!” She grabs Kaan and hugs him. Within minutes we become a bundle of joy. It is amazing. Plus it is the first time my dad sees me after the stroke. He seems doubly happy.
The next few days pass with jet lag and a lot of telephone calls. Arrangements, friends, relatives… Mehmet’s mom is very upbeat. She is overjoyed that his son+family came all the way from the USA just for her operation. We can hear the pride in her voice because her son has honored her like this. Mehmet’s parents are people with very few material demands. Even their home is arranged that way. There is no “stuff’ no ‘clutter’. Everything has its use, they don’t buy anything unless it is absolutely necessary and they try to give away things they don’t use anymore. Which is in stark contrast with our home where we tend to hoard anything and everything. As an ex brand/marketing manager I can say that my parent in law’s lifestyle is a marketing professional’s nightmare. It is very amusing indeed. With the downturn in economy I make a mental note to learn a bit from that lifestyle. Because they are not into material things, our being there for the operation matters for them very much.
Nowadays I understand it completely, and it is not bogus: The most important drive in life is not “power” or “money” it is clearly “LOVE”. Everyone wants to be loved. That is what we strive for. But the way we understand the manifestations of love is different. Some value gifts, some value compassion, some obedience, some praise, some physical love… But in the end we all look for love. As for Mehmet’s parents, the language of love is in the deeds.

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